Program Description
The Second Step Violence Prevention Program was designed by the Committee for Children. The Committee for Children is a national nonprofit organization that has been creating programs such as Second Step since the 1970’s. Each program is designed based on extensive research with cooperating universities, attempting to make connections between social and emotional competency and academic success. The Second Step Program is available for students ranging in age from Pre-K through Grade 9. The main objective of this program is to teach students skills such as empathy, emotion management, problem solving, and impulse control. This program is comprised of scripted lessons and supplemental materials such as videos, puppets, and classroom posters. These materials give the teachers a step-by-step guide to teaching the skills outlined above ( The lessons provided integrate these skills with activities in the core subject areas to allow that teachers have adequate time to teach the district’s required curriculum as well as the Second Step Program material.

The Committee for Children, based out of Seattle, Washington has dedicated over fifteen years of research in academic areas, as well as social-emotional aspects of children’s development and learning. Beyond this, there has been extensive research on this program by third party researchers (Journal of the American Medical Association, School Psychology Review, Journal of Adolescent Health, and Journal of Primary Prevention) to validate its effectiveness. Preliminary research in both urban and suburban schools showed that children who participated in the Second Step Program had superior problem-solving skills to those that did not participate (Sylvester & Frey, 1994).

Research Design
Kindergarten is the first time that many students are placed in a school setting and asked to interact and get along well with a large group of other children. Therefore, it is very important for children at this age to begin learning appropriate and successful ways to interact with others. Also, in kindergarten, students may start to experience feelings and emotions that they do not know how to express. The goal of this research is to determine whether or not the Second Step Program is an effective curriculum to implement in the kindergarten classroom. In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to complete behavioral observations and conduct oral interviews with students, teachers and other faculty/staff that interacts with the students on a regular basis. Qualitative data will be gathered and examined to show how well students are understanding and employing the skills that are being introduced and reinforced by the Second Step curriculum.

For this study, non-probability sampling methods were employed. This sampling was chosen to research students who had been participating in the Second Step Program since the beginning of the school year. Participants of this study were selected from four kindergarten classrooms in a local elementary school in Central Illinois. One hundred and one students were invited to participate, however only seventy five agreed to participate. Students at this elementary school were 84.6% white, 9.2% black, 2.2% Hispanic, 2.6% Asian/Pacific Islander, 0.0% Native American and 1.5% Multi-Racial. 8.8% of students attending the elementary school were qualified for the free or reduced lunch program ( districtinfo/pdf/2005_2006/Prairieland.pdf). All four classes have been participating in the Second Step Program since the beginning of the school year.

Teachers were also chosen as participants in this study. There are four kindergarten classroom teachers at the research site. These teachers are all full time teachers teaching a full day kindergarten program. All teachers are Caucasian females. Each teacher is present when the school social worker teaches the Second Step lessons in the classroom each week.

In order to understand the intentions of the Second Step program, it is necessary to first review the curriculum. Since the research we are conducing takes place in kindergarten, we focused our study on the Teacher’s Guide for Preschool-Kindergarten (ages 4-6). After reviewing this curriculum guide, it is clear which skills the curriculum aims to teach children. These concepts include empathy, problem solving, and other social skills. This information was valuable to research because it was necessary to see what students should be learning and how those concepts are being taught using the curriculum. If there was not background knowledge provided as to what behavior students should demonstrate, interviews and behavioral observations would provide ambiguous results.

Behavioral observations taken both in and out of the classroom also lead to a collection of reliable qualitative data. Observations took place during three different time periods, each lasting approximately one hour. Observations were completed by two participating researchers. One observer was familiar with the school and its students, while the other was not familiar with the research site. These observations took place in all four kindergarten classrooms, as well as the lunch room, playground, and physical education class. Observers took objective field notes and later made subjective comments in order to analyze the data collected. Observed behaviors that related to the goals of the Second Step Program included three pro-social behaviors: following directions from adults, interacting appropriately with peers, and following classroom rules; and two negative behaviors: distracting peers during instruction time and fighting or arguing with other students in the classroom. These behaviors were important to the research for several different reasons. Since all of the pro-social behaviors were skills being taught by the program, it was necessary to observe students’ demonstration in order to determine whether lessons were increasing student competency. On the other hand, the negative behaviors were situations that students should learn to appropriately handle and avoid. If these negative behaviors were observed, field notes describing how the students dealt with the problem gave further insight to the effectiveness of lessons and activities.

The final measure in which qualitative data was collected was through interviews. Interviews were conducted with students and teachers. When interviewing adults, the questions were focused on whether or not they observed a change in the interactions between kindergarteners and their peers or adults. Questions for teachers also included commentary surrounding the feasibility of implementing the program in their classroom and effectiveness of the curriculum. When interviewing students, the interviewer posed situational events that would require the student to problem solve and demonstrate competency of pro-social skills. Responses to situational questions allowed students to place themselves in scenarios requiring them to demonstrate concepts taught in the Second Step Program. Interviewers looked to see if students were able to respond with correct means of problem solving and explain how to act appropriately in given situations. If the program is to be deemed effective, students should be able to demonstrate competency in these areas.